Cuomo hears from critics over ‘monopolies’ comment

Governor Cuomo at table with daughter working on homeworkEarlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to break up “one of the only remaining public monopolies”, and push for a new round of teacher evaluations.

Cuomo also said that better teachers and competition from charter schools are the best ways to revamp an underachieving public school system.

Now his critics are firing back.

The Working Families Party, the Alliance for Quality Education, and the two candidates vying for the gubernatorial nod with Cuomo – Republican candidate Rob Astorino and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins – all took their shots at the Governor.

Working Families Party Response

“Gov. Cuomo is wrong on this one. His proposed policies on public education will weaken, not strengthen our public education system, and they would represent a step away from the principle of high quality public education for all students. High stakes testing and competition are not the answer. Investment in the future is the answer, and that means progressive taxation and adequate resources for our schools.

We endorsed the governor because of his commitments to raise the minimum wage, fight for public financing of elections, the full Women’s Equality Act, the DREAM Act, and decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. But we’ll never hesitate to criticize him when he’s wrong, as he is on this issue. A vote on the WFP line for Governor is a vote to get those crucial progressive policies passed and to strengthen the WFP.”

The Alliance for Quality Education Response

The Alliance for Quality Education’s designated Champions of Education in the New York State Senate, Assembly and New York City Council joined in the chorus of community and school superintendent responses to Gov. Cuomo’s vow on Tuesday to break the public schools “monopolies” and replace them with more privately-run charter schools.

“I find it unacceptable that Governor Cuomo would further disempower and denigrate our public schools,” said State Senator Bill Perkins. “Saying that there should be more competition among schools—to break a so-called public monopoly—is his way of imposing heedless private business practices on these august institutions that have served our citizens well for more than a century. Furthermore, charter schools perpetuate a system of educational inequality and have ushered in a new generation of separate but unequal outcomes in education. Governor Cuomo’s own words—sadly, lead us to believe that profit and privatization is more important to him than serving every child in the state with excellence.”

“It is troubling to read that the Governor, just days before the election, is blaming teachers again, and is now slamming the ‘public’ in public education in favor of increased privatization via charter schools,” Assembly member Patricia Fahy said. “By definition, public schools serve all children, including all those who cycle in and out of charter and other private schools. While accountability is essential among all teachers and in all schools, slamming a bedrock institution of our state and country – public education – while ignoring so many root causes of school failure – is simplistic at best and not constructive to moving the needle on improving education opportunities for all.”

“The Governor’s recent comments about the state of education and calling it a ‘public Monopoly’ has me gravely concern,” said Assembly member Walter Mosley. “Education is a public good, not a public monopoly. It must be treated as such, regardless of one’s family income or status, public education must be treated with a proper level of respect and regard to the general welfare of our society.”

“As a father and grandfather whose children have attended our public schools, investment in public education and support for public schools is critical. This is not the time to attack public schools but to strengthen them,” said Assembly member Felix W. Ortiz. “I pledge to fight for more state aid to public schools next year. Our future is at stake.”

“I am not surprised that Governor Cuomo supports attempts to privatize schools to benefit hedge fund billionaires,” said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “These Wall Street fat cats may raise him the most money but public education isn’t a business. If Governor Cuomo actually spent time in the NYC public schools, he would learn that there is no independent assessment that says that charter schools perform better than public schools. He should do something constructive for public education for a change. He should demand that charter schools are held accountable. He should stop charter schools from evading public oversight despite receiving millions in taxpayer money. He should stop charter schools from failing to properly educate English language learners and special education students. And he should seek to end problematic conflicts of interest between charter school board members and business interests.”

Rob Astorino’s Response

“New York public school teachers deserve respect for their day-in-and-day-out dedication to our children. I know, I have three young children in public schools; I went to public schools, and I served as an elected public school board member. My wife Sheila is a special ed teacher.

Mr. Cuomo’s adversarial stance toward teachers borders on disdain. I simply cannot understand it. All I can say is that, as governor, I will treat you, as teachers, with the respect you deserve as educational professionals, and with which I treat all public servants. We may not always agree on everything, but our goals will remain the same:

Strengthening New York’s public school system to better prepare the children we love for the future.

I am deeply committed to public schools in New York, as is my running mate Sheriff Chris Moss. Public schools are in my blood. I am also a card carrying union member, so I understand the need for and benefits of collective bargaining.

I have heard your concerns over charter schools, and I agree that accountability within them is a must. I have supported charter schools in New York’s inner cities, but I recognize that better public schools must ultimately be the answer to New York’s education challenges.

Governor Cuomo has taken millions of dollars from charter school backers and has no interest in accountability.

As a parent, first and foremost, I am committed to getting rid of Common Core in New York, and as governor, I will pull New York from the program. No K-12 teachers were involved in writing the developmentally inappropriate experimental standards; they were conceived in secrecy and never tested, and the math and English content experts on the validation committee both refused to endorse the standards saying they were of “poor quality.” We’ll replace it with better standards set by New York education experts with input from teachers and parents. And through the same approach, we’ll develop proper assessments for our students, teachers, and schools, of which testing will only be one piece of the puzzle. Our teachers are not test-giving automatons and our children are not guinea pigs. Each deserve better, and they’ll get it under my administration.

I have twice been elected by wide margins in a 2-1 Democratic county. That happened because I am willing to listen and to reach out to everyone, in a respectful manner, to find common solutions. I stand on principle, but I also understand that compromise and good will are how we move forward together as a society.

I would be honored to have your support on Tuesday. I promise you’ll have a respectful governor in me, willing to work with you honestly and constructively to protect and better New York’s public schools.”

Howie Hawkins’ Response

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, said that Cuomo’s recent description of schools as the “last public monopoly” is just the latest episode in his ongoing attacks on public education and teachers.

“Andrew Cuomo is turning New York’s schools into the Hunger Games. Andrew Cuomo pushes a game of competitive grants, charter schools, and high-stakes testing. This type of competition leaves a lot of losers. If the Governor wants to break a monopoly, he should break Pearson’s monopoly on testing.”

“What is Cuomo going to attack after he breaks the schools and teachers? Break up the police and fire departments? Have competing companies to deliver drinking water?” asked Hawkins.

Hawkins noted that under Cuomo funding for education has fallen to the lowest percentage of the state budget in 65 years, with a $9 billion cumulative shortfall from what the courts have ordered. He has also enacted tax caps to undermine the ability of local schools districts to make up for the state’s funding shortfall.

Cuomo has also led a drive to privatize the schools, favoring charter schools and promoting high stakes testing, both of which increase profits for his campaign contributors. Last week he vowed to challenge public school teachers by supporting stricter teacher evaluations and competition from charter schools.

“A governor who treats public education as some corporate entity, who shows no support for public education doesn’t deserve a second term. The remarks made clear that Cuomo is an enemy of our public education system. And that he wants to break it,” added Hawkins.

Hawkins said that Cuomo’s recent statement was part of a pattern of increasingly erratic behavior by Cuomo in the closing days of the campaign, starting with his mishandling of the Ebola epidemic. Cuomo earlier today dismissed the Moreland Commission scandal as “political baloney.”

“One has to wonder why a party like the WFP wants you to vote for a candidate that attacks workers and education, opposes making the rich pay their fair share of taxes, waffles on fracking, does photo ops in war zones during his campaign, and doesn’t support universal single payer health care,” commented Hawkins.

Hawkins has been endorsed by a wide range of teachers union and educators, include Diane Ravitch; Nassau County’s East Williston Teachers’ Association; northern Westchester County’s Lakeland Federation of Teachers; Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, Valley Central Teachers Association, Buffalo Teachers Federation, The Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers.; New York Badass Teacher Association, United Opt Out Independent Community of Educators, Independent Commission on Public Education (ICOPE), and Coalition for Public Education.

Cuomo vows to break up school ‘monopoly’ if re-elected

Gov. CuomoAt a Daily News editorial board meeting earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to break up “one of the only remaining public monopolies,” and push for a new round of teacher evaluations should he be re-elected.

Cuomo said better teachers and competition from charter schools are the best ways to revitalize an underachieving public school system.

“I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly,” he said.

On the topic of teacher evaluations, Cuomo said he would push for a plan that includes more incentives and sanctions that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”

“The teachers don’t want to do the evaluations and they don’t want to do rigorous evaluations — I get it. I feel exactly opposite.”

Predictably, the teachers unions fired back. Karen Magee, president of New York State United Teachers, called Cuomo’s comments “an unfortunate distraction” from addressing the real issues plaguing education, like poverty and fair funding.

“Public education is not a monopoly,” NYSUT President Karen Magee said. “It is the centerpiece of our democracy and what makes our nation great. Reclaiming the promise of public education should be our singular focus.”

“Gov. Cuomo has laid clear plans to expand his frontal assault on our public schools through high stakes testing, starving our public schools and privatization,” executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education Billy Easton said. “It’s not that shocking when you look at the enormous pile of cash he has raked in from the Wall Street billionaires who are investing in charter schools. He is rewarding his financial backers at a devastating cost to our children.”

Two years ago, Cuomo successfully backed a new evaluation system tying teacher performance to the Common Core Learning Standards testing results. Due to a sloppy roll out though, the implementation for some of those standards was delayed for two years.

“If you said Common Core testing was premature for students and you just halted the grades on the transcript, then what is your opinion about the impact of Common Core testing on teachers’ evaluations and what should be done?” Cuomo said at the time.

Just this month, Cuomo launched an ad campaign centered around education, that featured him sitting at his kitchen table helping his daughter Michaela with her homework. In the commercial, Cuomo calls for a five-year moratorium on using Common Core test scores. Just a few weeks later, he’s calling for tougher teacher evaluations and promoting charter schools.

With less than a week to go before Election Day, both Cuomo, and his gubernatorial challenger, Rob Astorino, seem to be turning up the heat on the issue of education.

Friday Rundown: 10.10.14

Good morning and let us be among the first to wish you a happy Columbus Day Weekend. In the news this week: NYSUT, Common Core in relation to improving SAT scores and inadequate funding for upstate schools. If you missed anything, we have you covered. Here’s your Rundown.

In Common Core transition, N.Y. looks to Kentucky (Capital New York)

Pearson’s wrong answer — and why it matters in the high-stakes testing era (Washington Post)

Schools in ‘limbo’ as Cuomo ponders evaluation bill (Capital New York)

Tisch, school groups lukewarm to Cuomo bond proposal (Capital New York)

NYSUT gets permission to intervene in tenure case (Capitol Confidential)…Teachers union challenges ‘gag order’ (Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin)

Study on upstate school funding (Albany Times Union)…Statewide #wecantwait education campaign hits home (Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin)

Parents have rights in children’s education (Times Herald Record)

Study: New York preschool push benefits wealthier families first (Washington Post)

Opinion: Regents should OK new path to careers (Utica Observer Dispatch)

SAT scores for Class of 2014 show no improvement (Washington Post)…Tisch: Common Core will boost students’ SAT scores (Capital New York)

Campaign calls on Cuomo to sign bill to allow CPR lessons in schools (WTEN)

Could students benefit from year-round school?

New York state requires 180 instructional days in the classroom. Historically speaking, those 180 days are spread out between the months of September through June, with July and August serving as summer recess.

But, what if a district took those 180 days and spread them out over an entire 12-month calendar year? At one school in West Virginia, administrators, teachers and parents swear by a year-round calendar that has the same number of teaching days as any other school, but spread throughout the year.

WATCH VIDEO: Could students benefit from year-round school? (PBS News)

Friday Rundown 9.5.14

By now, most students across New York state have returned to school. If you were busy and missed anything this week getting the kids ready for school, we’ve got you covered. Here’s this week’s Rundown.

State backing off on Common Core mandates after so many weighed in (Albany Times Union)

Astorino’s plan: Regents overhaul, Common Core replacement, vouchers (Capital New York)

NYSUT fights back in tenure attack (Albany Times Union)

School lunch prices on the rise (Buffalo news)

Opinion: Cuomo must use state surplus to remedy separate and unequal education system (Buffalo News)

Common Core to sink or swim this school year (Journal News)

State Board of Regents plans easier paths to high school graduation (NY Daily News)

View: Smart Schools bond a bad investment (Journal News)

What it actually takes for schools to ‘go digital’ (The Herchinger Report)

Friday Rundown 8.22.14

Happy Friday! It’s one of the last weekends of summer and schools are gearing up to open. The schools receiving Pre-K grant funding have been released just a few weeks before the school year begins. According to recent educational polling, many support common educational standards, but not the Common Core in particular. Some credit this to the poor implementation, funding questions and issues with the standardized tests. Educators are hoping the Pre-K roll out will go more smoothly. Read about this and more in this week’s Friday Rundown stories.

Poll: Common Core support among teachers plummets, with fewer than half supporting it (The Washington Post)

Schools allotted $4M for pre-K programs (Albany Times Union)

Seeking New Start, Finding Steep Cost (New York Times)

Study these schools (New York Daily News)

Comparing PDK and Education Next Polls (Education Next)

Common Core: State pays schools to reduce tests (The Journal News)

Teachout talks education, energy in run vs. Cuomo (Poughkeepsie Journal)

Smart School Act will show it works (Albany Times Union)

Newest Schenectady graduates used summer school as ‘life lesson’ (Daily Gazette)

Obama’s Learning Curve (Wall Street Journal)

Letter: Laptops top list of schools’ needs (The Journal News)

A shocking statistic about the quality of education research (The Washington Post)

NY ‘fixed’ Common Core tests — and scores surged (New York Post)

Friday Rundown 8.15.14

The back to school season has many of us thinking about going to bed earlier, shopping for school supplies, studying and textbooks. Reporters are evidently thinking the same, in addition to pension costs, budgets and the newly released 3-8 test scores. For more information, check out these stories from this week’s Friday Rundown.

Release of Grades 3-8 Assessment Scores

N.Y. school pension costs will rise 7.8% (The Journal News)

Not Everyone Has the Tools to Become Rich: How Our Childhood Shapes Our Ability to Succeed (Huffington Post)

SUNY project helps top teachers master skills to benefit students (Middletown Times Herald Record)

Private contractors cut school costs (Times Union)

Second year of Common Core tests shows math scores inch up, English scores flat (The Journal News)

Language on N.Y. ballots raises concerns again (The Poughkeepsie Journal)

Michelle Rhee Prepares To Leave CEO Job At StudentsFirst, Group She Founded (Huffington Post)

No, third grade is not the year when kids go from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ (Washington Post)

Going broke sending the kids back to school? Average cost of school supplies tops $100 (Today.com – NBC News)

The Teen Who Woke Up Her School (Huffington Post)

Common-Core Math Textbooks to Get Online Ratings (Education Week)

NYSUT plans to shred symbolic contract in protest

New York teachers are planning to protest the privatization of public education by shredding a symbolic contract with giant testing company Pearson.

The protest by leaders of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) will be held Monday, August 11, at 7:30 p.m. on the steps of the State Education Department.

According to NYSUT, teachers will feed the symbolic Pearson contract into paper shredders. The protest – which will be joined by New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento and United University Professions President Fred Kowal, among others – is part of NYSUT’s three-day endorsement conference, where local union presidents will weigh the voting records and make recommendations on candidates for state and federal office.

“This protest underscores, once again, the undue corporate influence on the education of children,” NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said. “We are speaking out against deep-pocket forces that want to privatize public education and erode due process rights.”

Friday Rundown 8.8.14

A good Friday morning to you. For most New York school districts, the first day of school is less than a month away. Can you believe that? Here’s your Rundown from the last week.

State Ed releases half of Common Core test questions (Buffalo News)

NY Minute: Cuomo considers tax break, school aid for $4.2 billion in extra cash (Syracuse Post Standard)

School reforms that actually work (The Washington Post)

Three takeaways from The Colbert Report’s teacher-tenure talk (Chalkbeat)

A lesson from South Korea: Student resistance to high-stakes testing (The Washington Post)

Gov. Cuomo signs law requiring coaches to report signs of child abuse (NY Daily News)

Boston Research Finds Kids’ Brains Benefit From Playing Music (WBUR)

Cracking the Girl Code: How to End the Tech Gender Gap (Time)

NY to invest $14M to promote stem cell education (Utica Observer Dispatch)

The Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy 2014 (Spoiler alert: @edspeaksNY did not make the list, though we would appreciate a follow from you!) (Education Next)

Shannan Speaks: Don’t sacrifice the strongest aspects of our education system

Shannan Costello is an intern for the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service. She is a senior at Marist College where she is majoring in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. She will be contributing content to Education Speaks throughout the summer from the unique perspective of a college senior.

Americans worry, with good reason, about our nation’s position in today’s global world. The U.S. has long been a world power, and with American students trailing in math and science compared to many Asian and Nordic countries there is a fear we are losing our edge. Since children are the future, education is key to our country’s long-term success.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) comes out with reports based on an international standardized test ranking the competitiveness of most industrialized nations on an international scale. The most recent round of PISA testing revealed that American 15-year-olds fall 27th out of 34 countries in mathematics proficiency.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently administered a new exam to international college graduates. This test, the Piaac, found that Americans with Bachelors degrees placed 16th out of 24 nations in numeracy–well below the international average score. While it is universally agreed upon that the United States is home to the majority of the world’s best higher education institutions, on average U.S. college grads are also lagging. Common Core learning standards have focused the nation’s attention to K-12 education and how the U.S. compares globally. College graduates have never before been compared internationally in the same way high school students have. Perhaps with the new OECD test results, higher education will be the next front.

As a two-time study abroad student, I learned a lot about globalization, foreign cultures and foreign education. Spending three semesters in two different European countries opened my eyes to the education systems, values and techniques in different countries. My first experience was in a country that consistently ranks below the U.S. on these international exams, Italy, and my second was in a country that typically outranks us and performs slightly above average, France. Of course, my experience was only at the college/university level, which differs from primary and secondary education. However, I did notice some cultural and educational differences that I think are connected to the performance on these exams.

My friends and I often conversed and compared our experiences abroad to what we were used to at home. There were many cultural contrasts between the three nations, but there were also differences between my educational experiences and those of the other Americans I knew while studying abroad. People thrive in different learning conditions, personal lifestyle and learning style preferences impact American students’ perceptions of international education.

In Italy my professors were relaxed, unconcerned with schedules and lesson plans. The class sizes were smaller, but there was not always more individualized attention. I attended an international school, with primarily Italian professors and students from the United States, South and Central America and other European countries. It was a different experience from the U.S. education system, but not nearly as extreme as my time in France.

Italy’s scores usually fall towards the bottom of the ranking on the PISA test just below the U.S., while France outranks us on this test. From my experience this makes sense, however that does not necessarily mean that these education systems are better or worse. Many of the differences come from varying cultural values and a different education system structure.

The French public education system is run at a national level. This means that the curriculum is basically universal. This is very different from the U.S. system, where there are general guidelines nationally, more specific ones like starting age requirements and graduation requirements at a state level and then the very specific decisions are made within the district. It makes our education system more customizable, but it can also allow for inequalities in education. Our system also makes more room for fun and learning from non-academic experiences. While these things can contribute to happier and more well rounded children, they can also mean that some of our students are very internationally competitive and prepared for college, but others are not. These things, while beneficial in their own way or for certain students, do not make for overall higher standardized test scores.

My professors in Paris, though nice people, were often quite harsh. There was no such thing as “sugarcoating” and often criticism did not feel so constructive. They demanded perfection without actually believing it was possible, but graded as if it was. In the French school system, from primary education through higher ed., they grade on a system of 0-20, but anything above 16 is almost entirely unachievable. In the American system, getting a grade of A or above 90% is achievable. Even though a grade that high is considered excellent work, students are considered capable of excellent work.

France’s negative reinforcement system makes people study very diligently and become very knowledgeable, but it also can take away from the joy of learning and can make students feel inadequate too pressured. French students acquire a lot of academic knowledge, but their teachers and professors put little value on creative thinking and individual strengths and weaknesses. France is a very formal nation and its residents value implicit understanding. For my American friends and me, studying at five different French schools, this made for a strict and confusing school system. Did my American education prepare me for this experience? Yes. I had all of the knowledge and skills I needed to make it through the semester, I had just never needed to apply them in that way or under those conditions before.

While France does outrank the U.S. on these international exams, it is not an international leader. They only fell one point above average on the college graduate numeracy test and typically hover just around average on international competiveness. I admired many of my French friends for the impressive references they made in conversation and their fluency in English. There was no doubt they were well educated and those who spent time as exchange students in the U.S. knew that. Yet, they all had extreme doubt about their English proficiency and were not very optimistic about their job prospects.

The American education system is trailing in math and science and these are extremely important for the future success of our nation. From my experience with the French system, I think it is important to remember that the countries that outrank us may have better test scores, but they are not superior in all ways. There is more to a good education than being able to pass a math test. The PISA and Piaac tests cannot truly capture this distinction.

There are unique things done right and wrong in every education system I’ve experienced. The United States’ education system has issues to fix, but it is important to find solutions that do not sacrifice the strongest aspects. The ability to compete is important in today’s global economy, but we cannot compare our education system to those of our neighbors’ and expect to find all the answers. Top ranked Shanghai has issues with equity in education that are believed help to raise the province’s scores – unlike the American educational inequities which are based on funding and trying to offer high quality education to all.

International competiveness, equality for all income levels and college/career readiness are essential to the success of the United States. Now is the time to look inward at our country’s issues and focus less on how other nations are educating children. High scoring countries can be useful models, but we cannot forget that we have offerings that they cannot or do not provide. Every student I have met –American, Italian, French, Swedish, etc. – that has experience in multiple foreign education systems, agree that there are positive and negative elements of each system. During this time of education reform in the U.S., we must consider our large and diverse population, which is fundamentally different from top performing nations like Singapore, Finland and South Korea, as well as our nation’s diverse strengths and weakness, which shape our students and therefore, our future.